Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Advent Devotional for Dec. 9

Tuesday, December 9 John 5
To be healed, we must first want to be healed.
Tradition held that the waters in the pool of Beth-zatha could heal if the sick person could only touch them. Verse 4 of this chapter is omitted from many modern translations of the Bible, but gives us an insight into this tradition: “…an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well from whatever disease that person had.” By the pool lay a man, blind, lame and paralyzed—he had been ill for 38 long years.
Jesus’ first question to the man may seem odd: “Do you want to be healed?” We think, well, yeah, why wouldn’t he want to be healed? But 38 years is a long time to live with an illness. One begins to make one’s peace with an illness over 38 years. One might not like being blind, lame and paralyzed, but at least after 38 years, the man has no doubt re-constructed his reality to account for the infirmity, and life has gone on as planned. If healing meant going through that process all over again, having to relearn how to live as a sighted person who could walk, would that person really want to be healed after all? Or would it be easier to keep on living with the malady?
I do not presume to judge whether the man should have wanted to be healed or not. (He did, incidentally, and he was.) But this is precisely the same dilemma we face. Living as we do in an imperfect world, we make our peace with its broken realities—sometimes we make our peace too easily. We begin to expect that we, too, will reflect its values. We begin to think that a bit of conspicuous consumption here, a degree of profanity there, a wandering and lustful eye here, a bit of sloth there, that all these things are normal, just part of being a person.
It is and it isn’t. It is normal, but it is far from the abundant life God has for us. And so Jesus asks us as well—“Do you want to be healed?” Or have we fallen so in love with our sickness, with our life as it is now, that we no longer want healing, but for a divine blessing on the status quo? Do we really want healing if that means re-constructing our realities, re-thinking everything? Would we rather remain sick or take on the work it will entail to be made whole?


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